With the country under the tightest restrictions seen for decades, Hobbs Parker director and auctioneer Peter Kingwill has given a firm assurance that the market at Ashford will stay open for business.

“The situation on markets is that discussions with DEFRA and government have been positive,” he stressed. “They want to see regular movement of animals from farm to abattoir and there are no suggestions of closure.

“Clearly, though, in the light of the coronavirus crisis we are being careful about the social aspect of markets and we are stressing that only those who have direct business at the market should attend. It is no longer a place for family and friends to visit.”

Sellers and hauliers are being encouraged to deliver their animals to the site, leave them with market staff and then leave to avoid any unnecessary contact. “It means the market is much quieter, but it means we can continue to satisfy demand from consumers,” Peter commented.

Those attending the market are being urged to wash their hands regularly, keep a sensible distance away from staff and other clients and follow government advice on self-isolation if they feel unwell.

As to the future? “There are no guarantees, but I see no reason why the market shouldn’t continue. Farmers are doing an important job supplying the country and we will do everything we can to make sure that continues.”

Graham Ellis, from Stanfords, confirmed that the Colchester livestock market would also be staying open, although the general market, which includes poultry, is no longer operating.

“We are following the advice of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association and are operating the livestock market accordingly,” he said. “We need to support the industry and the country.”